As the ban on religious gatherings lifts during Level 3 of the national lockdown, many churches around KwaZulu-Natal have taken the decision not to reopen.

This weekend alone, many places of worship from across different religions in and around Durban, chose to remain closed. But those who have decided to reopen say, they are ready to follow the strict rules that come with protecting their members from COVID-19.

The trustees of the Durban Hindu Temple say they will be reopening their temple this month. This is in response to President Cyril Ramaphosa‘s announcement that places of worship will be allowed to operate but under strict rules.

Religious places have been urged to ensure that their numbers are limited to not more than 50 devotees. Chairman of the Durban Hindu Temple Rajesh Soni says all devotees will be screened before entering the temple.

“Currently at the moment, Durban Hindu Temple is closed but we will officially open to the public on the 11th of June ensuring that all the necessary precautions and systems are in place. When the devotee arrives at the temple, normal sanitizing will take place thereafter they will be guided to the administration block where a temperature check will be done together with all relevant details so that in the event of tracing we will have that on hand.”

Soni says although they will be reopening, it is depressing that some of the rituals and practices will not be performed. He says there will have to be a necessary change to how some prayer practices are been observed.

“All devotees bringing their food to the temple will, unfortunately, have to take it back. There will be no sharing of fruits together with any liquids. In terms of taking blessings from the priest, one has to adhere to the 1.5-meter distancing.”

In the video below, Ramaphosa says churches violating lockdown regulations will be closed down:

General Secretary of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Holy Spirit Church in Zion in Pietermaritzburg, Reverend Nkosinathi Robert Lubanyana, says for congregants to return to church, strict rules will have to be implemented and practiced.

“For people to go back they must make sure the environment is safe and the places of worship are safe. Proper sanitation must be there in the actual church and that the environment is ready for the people to come in and also to make sure that as the congregants come in they are sanitized, they have masks, there are the scans and there is a register that needs to be kept there with the details of the whoever is coming into the church so that you can trace and track the people.”

In the video below, various SA religious leaders welcome the reopening of places of worship:

The Shembe Nazareth Baptist Church has confirmed to the SABC that it is not yet ready to reopen.

Phenius Ncwane is the spokesperson of the Thembezinhle faction, “We took a decision that we cannot worship because we are a very big church, our numbers are extremely high. We decided that congregants should rather pray at home. If we can allow our people to worship chances are very high that we break the regulation of 50 people. So for now we are worshipping from home.”

The Archbishop of Durban, Cardinal Wilfred Napier, has confirmed that the reopening of the places of worship in their respective jurisdictions would be postponed. This is to allow for adequate preparations, including awareness workshops for priests.

Meanwhile, several religious organisatons, across the faith spectrum, have chosen to continue with virtual services.